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Survival Tactics

Most high achievers don't pretend to have balanced lives. But some are able to accommodate their workaholic ways.

Switch and link.
Harvard professors Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson say some high-performing executives can switch their focus "with lightning speed" among activities that provide happiness, significance, achievement, and legacy. That can mean taking a break to celebrate a staff win — or leaving your cell phone behind on your vacation.

Pick your spots.
Not everything goes according to plan. And that's okay. "It's about not sweating the little things," says Tina Sharkey, an AOL senior vice president. "That's the only way I'm able to cope." When caterers came the wrong day for a brunch she was hosting, she didn't blow up; she just ate the extra fee and asked them to come back the next day.

Lower your standards.
Achievers are slaves to their own standards. Relax them, and odds are no one will notice. "Let's define what's negotiable," says executive coach Madeleine Homan. "Maybe there's a report that's expected — but I'm going to do one that's twice as long and a day early? Really, nobody cares."

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A version of this article appeared in the October 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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